It seems that starting a successful business can happen at any time and to anyone. All it took for Jake Bronstein was a look at where all his underwear was manufactured. Once he realized that 99% of all men’s underwear sold in the U.S. was produced in developing nations, he organized a Kickstarter campaign in April 2012 with a mission to change that, build a better product, and help revive the American cut-and-sew industry (a mission shared by like-minded clothing manufacturers SustainU and Manufacture NY). At the end of a month of crowdfunding, his underwear company Flint and Tinder raised nearly 1000% of the goal at a whopping $291,493, the most successful fashion Kickstarter at the time.
The name Flint and Tinder comes from the early stages of the company when Jake was looking for funding. After a meeting with a venture capital firm where Jake pitched that the company would “reignite American manufacturing,” the venture capitalist retorted, “the only way to reignite American manufacturing is with flint and tinder.” His snarky comment meant he wouldn’t invest and had little idea how flint works (it takes flint and steel to make a spark, tinder is just a possibility to keep a fire going). Fortunately, Kickstarter came through for this now wildly successful venture.
All of the products are made in the U.S. from SUPIMA cotton. This cotton is some of the finest in the world with extremely long and silky fibers that create a soft, breathable yet durable yarn that keeps all of F&T’s products at a high quality. The clothing is all produced at a family-owned and -operated factory in the United States that is over 100 years old and was hit hard by the 2008 economic collapse. Now, as F&T helps to reinvigorate the factory, for every 1000 pairs of underwear purchased each month, an additional job is added or secured somewhere in the supply chain.
Although Flint and Tinder started by only selling men’s underwear, it soon realized that there was potential to expand to shirts, jackets and even a whole men’s store of shaving accessories and wall art, which led Esquire magazine to name it one of the 10 best new online men’s shopping sites in October 2012. However, Flint and Tinder still wasn’t done changing the landscape of clothing manufacturing.
After overhearing someone in a factory talking about using a coarse thread in a delicate fabric, a method sure to wear on the clothing quickly, Jake and the F&T team launched another campaign to combat this planned obsolescence. In March 2013, Flint and Tinder launched a second Kickstarter campaign to fund the 10-year hoodie, which garnered the company additional praise from the all-mighty Esquire. This premium sweatshirt is designed for life, guaranteed for a decade, and backed by free mending. This comfortable hoodie is meant to support the idea that a product should be durable, as opposed to disposable — even if that product is recyclable. This project rapidly sold more than 11,000 hoodies for a grand total north of $1 million, the first fashion Kickstarter campaign to reach that benchmark.
Flint and Tinder has quickly established itself as part of the new vanguard of quality, responsibly made clothing, using Kickstarter to find an audience. The massive success of this company has certainly shown the venture capitalists the missed opportunity. Maybe next time they will take a chance and fund a company that has values grounded in supporting the American economy? Maybe.